Posted tagged ‘Iran – Sunnis’

Reflections on Trump’s First State Visit to the Middle East

May 19, 2017

Reflections on Trump’s First State Visit to the Middle East, The National InterestAhmed Charai, May 19, 2017

King Salman of Saudi Arabia in 2013. Flickr/Secretary of Defense

The Trump administration, working alongside its Arab allies, should promote moderate or quietist forms of Islam, and not remain neutral on religious matters. This means working with Islamic leaders, many of whom are state-funded imams, to challenge jihad on a religious basis and offer a form of faith shorn of violence.

These strategic insights come together in Morocco, where King Mohammed VI has used his religious role as commander of the faithful to inspire religious leaders to combat jihadism and urge tolerance and peace.

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President Trump is visiting the Middle East. He will travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel, then visit the Vatican. Given the sequence of the first two, some observers speculated that he will attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, perhaps within a broader, regional framework. But different potential outcomes for Arab-Israeli relations, short of a peace settlement, may also be in the offing.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel have proven themselves to be invaluable partners to the United States in the struggle against ISIS. An American-brokered framework whereby direct cooperation between the two is formalized—rather than a reliance on the United States as an intermediary—may create a framework to broaden the cooperation. Heightened partnership to counter the shared threat of Iran would be an obvious next step. The Trump administration’s new strategy is the creation of a regional alliance, focused on the Gulf countries but also including countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. A multilateral approach in which Israel plays a more direct and visible role in the coalition would signify a breakthrough. It would bolster confidence among Arab publics that broader cooperation and conflict resolution are warranted.

Donald Trump made the eradication of the Islamic State a priority during his campaign. He has been criticized for his more muscular strategy, as well as the desire to augment intelligence, economic and communications measures to put the screw to the organization.

It seems possible that the president is making a clean break with the Obama administration’s policy of disengagement from the Middle East. For Trump, the rubric of a “war on terrorism” seems to be appealing. Arabs appreciate the fact that, unlikely his predecessor, Trump appears to be recognizing the Shia extremist terror threat as represented by Iran and its proxy militias alongside the widely recognized Sunni jihadist threat.

In the view of this administration, this alliance should function like NATO, as an alliance (perhaps supported by the West) with multiple objectives. The eradication of Islamic State is the main objective, but the containment of Iranian influence in the region is also on the menu.

The use of a massively powerful bomb against the Islamic State in Afghanistan provided a mighty demonstration of strength, but may also have been intended to send a message about the president’s commitment to confront his adversaries with some of the most powerful tools in his arsenal.

But of course, matters are not so simple.

At the geostrategic level, Russia and the pro-Iranian Shia arc cannot be ignored politically. The alliance between the two poses layers of complexity, whereby American and Russian accounts in the Baltic states and vis à vis NATO may be dragged into the diplomatic mix. Moscow cannot be excluded from the equation in any prospective political resolution in Syria. As for Iran, Russia wields heavy influence on its government and its security sector. Trump faces a Twister-like game of challenges in navigating the array of alliances, rivalries and hostilities among the players. Yet his aspiration to eradicate the Islamic State and block Iranian expansion in the region depends on his effective management of these quandaries.

Nor do Trump’s aspirations allow for neglect of the broader counterterrorism challenge beyond military action, intelligence work and even diplomacy. He must wage an ideological war, and challenge extremist strands within Arab and Islamic societies that guarantee the perpetuation of conflict—whatever the outcomes on the battlefield—unless they are addressed.

The Trump administration, working alongside its Arab allies, should promote moderate or quietist forms of Islam, and not remain neutral on religious matters. This means working with Islamic leaders, many of whom are state-funded imams, to challenge jihad on a religious basis and offer a form of faith shorn of violence.

These strategic insights come together in Morocco, where King Mohammed VI has used his religious role as commander of the faithful to inspire religious leaders to combat jihadism and urge tolerance and peace.

King Mohammed VI has demonstrated his commitment to deeper cooperation with neighboring countries by embarking on several state visits and signing an unprecedented number of economic-partnership conventions. He has also expressed support for joint efforts to combat radicalization, and officials from Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Tunisia, and Guinea have indicated a willingness to train their imams in Morocco.

If Trump is looking for a healthy example of Muslim leaders bringing peace through Islam, Morocco is a good place to start.

Iran: Destabilizing the Middle East Through Proxy Allies

May 11, 2017

Iran: Destabilizing the Middle East Through Proxy Allies, Clarion ProjectAmir Basiri, May 11, 2017

An Iranian Shiite militia in Iraq (Photo: Reuters)

It is a known fact throughout the region that the Islamic Republic of Iran founded the Lebanese Hezbollah as an offspring to expand its influence in the Middle East and gain a foothold on the shores of the Mediterranean.

U.S. National Security Advisor Lt. General H.R. McMaster recently accused Tehran of imposing the “Hezbollah model” to gain influence over various Middle East states, destabilizing the region through the process.

Such a blueprint includes targeting vulnerable governments across the region through a variety of plots while, at the same time, backing armed militia groups stationed in those countries. Hezbollah has already managed to consolidate its influence over the government of Lebanon after Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, took control over the country’s presidency last year.

It has also become quite obvious that the United States, despite the highly flawed nuclear deal which supposedly aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program, enjoys the leverage of pressuring Iran through the use of comprehensive sanctions. Tehran will likely not forget this obvious factor and knows the Trump administration can kick-start new sanctions whnever it deems necessary.

The new administration has already slapped the Iranian regime with two series of sanctions in the past three months and more can be expected.

The reference made by Trump’s national security adviser to “militias and other illegal armed groups” backed by Iran refers to the vast variety of Shiite militias in Iraq under the Baghdad-backed umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). These groups have their parallel in Yemen with the Houthis, who are focusing their efforts on ousting the Western-backed government.

British researchers discovered evidence indicating without a doubt how Tehran is deeply involved in keeping a “weapons pipeline” up and running for Houthis.

At the same time, Tehran continues to harass the Saudis from their southern border and threaten international shipping lines passing through the strategic Bab el Mandab waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

This goes in line with a conglomerate of Shiite foot-soldiers Iran has rallied from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries for the bloodbath raging on in Syria after six long years.

Iran has abetted the barbaric tactics of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, further demonstrating its ill intentions across the region. The PMU and Hezbollah have boosted Tehran’s efforts and role in keeping Assad in power. They have all been accused of having played atrocious roles in unspeakable war crimes, with the Khan Shaykhoun chemical attack by Assad in Idlib Province of northern Syria acting as yet another stark reminder of this reality.

Iran’s destabilizing role in nations across the Arab and Islamic worlds has been on the rise significantly with news reports seen in recent months.

The Iraqi Parliament legitimized the PMU last November through the adoption of a law aimed at maintaining this entity’s command structure and hierarchy. Iraqi Sunnis, alongside all minorities in the country including Christians, Yazidi and others, are now left extremely concerned, knowing how this measure can actually legalize the brutal retaliation measures conducted by the Shiite militias.

While Iran’s “medddling” has become obvious to the international community, officially Tehran has continued to deny its role of fueling these Middle East conflicts.

In March, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi denied “any intervention in the internal affairs of Arab countries.” The irony lies in the fact that despite such remarks, Alireza Zakani, known to be a close confidante of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is also known to have boasted in remarks dating back to November 2014 of Iran controlling four Arab capitals following the Houthis’ capture of the Yemeni capital. The list included Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus.

Following eight years of the Obama administration’s disastrous Iran engagement policy, it is high time to make it crystal clear to Iran that such a trend will no longer be tolerated and must come to an end.

Alert: Iran’s “A2/AD” Saudi Plan is Scott’s “Anaconda Plan”

October 19, 2016

Alert: Iran’s “A2/AD” Saudi Plan is Scott’s “Anaconda Plan”, Israel National News, Mark Langfan, October 19, 2016

Whoever gains the White House will face a waxing Iranian tidal-wave funded with $150 billion US dollars that will soon wipe the Sunnis off the face of the earth.  And only too late, the world will realize the Obama Administration’s only “legacy” will be the creation of an Iranian Islamic Terrorist Nuclear-armed superpower empire with 60% of the world’s oil supply.

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At the outset of the American Civil War in 1861, the aging, wise, soon-to-be-retired-too-soon Union General-in-Chief Winfred Scott came in direct strategic conflict with George B. McClellan, the Union general who would recklessly and catastrophically lose the Union’s first phase of the US Civil War.

General McClellan believed in a direct attack into the south, and he failed. Scott believed in  a slow general blockade comprising a western smothering blockade slithering down the Mississippi, paired with an eastern naval blockade of the South’s ports.  Given the image of a slow-crushing of the South, Scott’s plan was, at first, ridiculed and derided, and came to be named after a slow, but deadly snake: the “Anaconda Plan.”  In time, Scott’s Anaconda Plan came to be the core blue-print for the North’s eventual Civil War victory over the South.

The plan’s use, however, is not limited to the good guys.

Today, for many of the same tactical reasons Scott advocated for his indirect, Anaconda blockading plan, Iran is successfully embarking on a modern-day Anaconda Plan for annihilating Saudi Arabia and capturing the Mesopotamian Black Gold Triangle that holds 54% of the world’s known oil reserves.  However, in today’s military parlance, Iran’s strategy has a fancier name, “A2/AD” which stands for “Anti-Access, Area-Denial.”

In fact, one can understand all of Iran’s seemingly disparate Arabian Peninsula/Levant Theater actions as really one-seamless Anaconda A2/AD attack plan with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf kingdoms as its one and only target. Iran plans to encircle and smother Saudi Arabia to death by insuring the United States will be incapable of defending the Sunni kingdoms when Iran strikes for their heart.

The strategic analogs between Scott’s Anaconda Plan and Iran A2/AD plan are striking.

In the West, General Scott envisioned going south down the Mississippi River to “cut the Confederacy in two.”  Today, in the north-east, Iran is going north upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers with the goal of reaching the Mediterranean through Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and cutting the Sunni Turkey/Levant battle-space in two.

We were warned by Mitt Romney in the last election campaign. Everyone laughed and claimed that the candidate’s 2012 Obama/Romney-debate truism that “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” was a gaffe.  The “genius” Washington Post andGuardian “fact-checkers” were too myopic to understand that Romney meant the “Mediterranean Sea” not the Arabian Sea.

What this Iranian Shiite land-bridge Crescent from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea really does is not just create an Iranian “route to the Sea,” it creates a strategic topological disconnection between the NATO bases of Turkey and the scenes of Iran’s ultimate point of attack: the Persian Gulf Sunni Kingdoms.  The Iranian Crescent cuts the NATO/Mesopotamian battle-space in two.  With this critical swatch of land spanning west and east in Iran’s operational control, in the event of an Iranian attack on the Saudis, Iran can erect an east-west anti-air missile cordon that will present any mustering Turkey-based NATO force with a perilous path to save the Sunni Kingdoms from a blitzkrieg Iranian attack.

Unlike Saddam Hussein at Kuwait, or Hitler at Dunkirk, the Iranians won’t stop and wait at Kuwait for the Sunni’s allies to re-group.  Instead, the Iranians will run the Western Persian Gulf coast all the way to Oman sealing the Sunnis fate in one sweep.  With an Iranian air-defense curtain across the Shiite Crescent to the Med, any Turkey-based NATO saving-force will arrive too late, and suffer catastrophic losses in order to stop the Iranian juggernaut from running the Persian Gulf table.

Back to Scott: Along the Confederacies’ eastern coast General Scott planned a naval blockade of the South’s ports.  This naval blockade starved the Rebels of urgently needed ammunition and trade from Europe because the south didn’t possess real industrial might.  Today, to the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran is sinking its teeth into Yemen, and through the thinly veiled proxy of the Houthis, it is creating an ultimate strategic naval choke point at the Straits of Bab El-Mandab.

In the event of an Iranian attack, the range of Iran’s anti-ship missiles is so long that Iran can be deeply embed hundreds of hardened Iranian anti-ship missile batteries far from the Yemeni coastline.  An American saving force may be able to ultimately break-through.  But, by the time such an American force broke through, it would still have to fight its way through the Straits of Hormuz.  Thus, the Iranian game would be over in the Persian Gulf before the Americans would ever get through the Straits of Bab El-Mandab, let alone the Straits of Hormuz.

In sum, the Iranian military is successfully effecting a modern day Anaconda-style A2/AD strategy which mixes the topological aspects of the Japanese game of Go, along with the balance of chess aimed at total victory over Saudi Arabia and the West.

In the meantime, the current American Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson is pompously declaring that the A2/AD strategy is “dead.”  Instead of planning how to defeat Iran, under the idiotic “leadership” of Obama, the American military is busying itself with “protocols” for the Pentagon to pay for sex change operations for American service-persons. (And, I kid you not, about this.)

Whoever gains the White House will face a waxing Iranian tidal-wave funded with $150 billion US dollars that will soon wipe the Sunnis off the face of the earth.  And only too late, the world will realize the Obama Administration’s only “legacy” will be the creation of an Iranian Islamic Terrorist Nuclear-armed superpower empire with 60% of the world’s oil supply.